Top 10 Plot Twists of 2010

Last year I wrote a piece that ranked the top most shocking plot moments in games for the year of 2009. Not only am I bringing the list back this year to begin an annual tradition here on GamerNode, but I am expanding the list from five to ten. There were quite a lot of suprising twists in some of the hottest games from January until now. There were even a couple that weren’t from what the majority of gamers would call "Game of the Year level titles". Being one who loves a good story and loves a great surprise even more, I’ve ranked those that I feel were the most fitting and really caught you off guard.


Before you get right down to it and check out the list I will give this warning: These plot twists all deal with the narratives of several of this year’s top titles. So if anyone intends on playing these games and seeing them through to the end, I strongly advise you wait until after you do so to read this piece.



10) Noble Team is Responsible for Delivering Cortana to the Pillar of Autumn

Because of Noble Team, Cortana was able to board the Pillar of Autumn.

Halo: Reach was a prequel for the Halo trilogy, but was not believed to tie directly into its predecessor’s seeing as how the story focuses on Noble Team and not primary series protagonist Master Chief. The game followed the group of Spartan warriors as the battle for Reach went from a skirmish to an all-out invasion with no hope of human victory. But when the group investigated Sword Base at the end of the game and once again encountered Dr. Halsey, players were treated to the most pleasant surprise of the game. Halsey had with her Cortana, Master Chief’s soon-to-be AI companion, and instructed Noble Team to deliver her to Captain Keyes and the Pillar of Autumn as a last-ditch effort to save humanity. It allowed the series to come full circle and made the members of Noble Team some of the most crucial and heroic figures of humanity’s war with the Covenant.


9) The Origin of the Collectors is Revealed

The Collectors were the Protheans.

The first impression the Collectors leave on players in Mass Effect 2 is far from a good one. They abduct entire human colonies across the galaxy, leaving no trace of evidence behind. It is also discovered early on that any ship trying to reach the Collectors through the Omega-4 Relay have never returned. With this kowledge it’s pretty easy to believe that the Collectors are just plain evil and always have been. But upon infiltrating a Collector ship about halfway through the game, Shepard uncovers information that is both shocking and unsettling. The Collectors are the remnant Protheans, the last great civilization before that of the galactic council, which have become nothing but indoctrinated slaves of the Reapers. This eerie revelation fuels the players’ hatred for the Reapers and makes them wonder with a sense of dread if humans are next.


8) Alan Wake Locks Himself in Darkness to Save Bright Falls and Alice Wake

Alan makes the ultimate sacrifice: A fate worse than death.

To say that Alan Wake is confusing can be an understatment. The heavy Lovecraftian themes are meant to create a disorienting sense of mystery and make the player question what is or isn’t real and what he or she really knows. But above all of that depth is the story of a small rural mountain village in the Pacific Northwest plunging into darkness as the protagonist tries desperately to find a way to save his wife. That struggle leads Alan Wake to make a huge decision that at first seems to give everyone a happy ending. But the final scene reveals that in order for him to save his wife and Bright Falls, Alan had to make the ultimate sacrifice by trapping himself in a world of darkness. The twist led players to wonder just what will happen to Wake. Is he forever doomed? Can he escape? Is this all in his head and is he going insane? Will he ever get back to his wife? It also proved a strong philosophical point. Sometimes in order to obtain something of great value, one must sacrifice something of equal or greater value in return.

7) The Collectors Attack and Abduct the Normandy Crew

The Normandy's crew gets abducted while Shepard is away.

It seems like everything is finally falling into place. Your crew is assembled, information gathered, possibly for some even all the ship upgrades are finished. You are ready to take the fight to the Collectors and save humanity. Just one small mission needs to be taken care of first. However, that small mission is a complete and utter trap designed to lure Shepard and his entire combat-capable force off of the Normandy. In what is the most disheartening moment of Mass Effect 2, the Collectors pull a surprise attack on the Normandy. Only this time it isn’t to destroy the ship, it’s to abduct its crew. When Shepard returns he finds only EDI and a completely shellshocked Joker left. The attack leaves a serious blow to the player’s efforts and takes all the wind out of their sails. But if anything, the Collectors’ simply made the upcoming endgame that much more personal.


6) Logan Makes You Choose Between Condemning Elise or Protest Leaders to Death

Logan proves right away that he's a prick.

In any video game that features heavy choices, the decisions are almost always brought about after a long and lengthy narrative that sucks players in and gives them enormous weight. Except in Fable III, where Lionhead Studios threw a wrench into the status quo and forced the player into a situation not even an hour after starting where they had to condemn someone to death. The choice was between either the prince’s/princess’ best friend/lover Elise, or the innocent protestors asking for fair treatment to workers in the Kingdom of Albion. The moment comes so soon and quick that it sends the player for a total loop and sets an example for how heavy your future decisions as King of Albion will be. Most important of all, it worked. It’s because Lionhead went against the mold with this twist that worked so well in Fable III that it gets itself this spot on the list.


5) Jason Mars is Killed by a Car and Ethan Mars’ Life Falls Apart

Poor Jason. At least no one will have to hear Ethan's annoying call for him anymore.

Ethan Mars has the perfect life at the start of Heavy Rain. He’s a skilled architect, lives in beautiful American suburbia, and has a loving wife and two sons. We are introduced to the Mars’ and given time to get attached to their happy life. Because of this, it becomes such a depressing and saddening shock to the system when Ethan’s son, Jason, is struck by a car and killed. Ethan, attempting to save his son by taking the brunt of the car’s impact, is left in a coma for months. When he comes out of it, Ethan is unable to cope with the loss of his son. The depression becomes a downward spiral that leads to his loss of creativity, divorce, and relocation to a poorly kept two-story urban apartment. This terrible accident combined with Ethan’s fall helps set the stage for the depressing and dramatic tale of Heavy Rain as well as allowing Ethan Mars to become one of the most sympathetic characters in 2010.

4) John Marston is Betrayed and Slaughtered by the U.S. Army

John Marston couldn't escape his past.

Everyone thought that when John Marston hunted down and killed his former mentor Dutch once and for all, the curtain would fall for Red Dead Redemption. Cue final cutscene, roll credits, game over. But that wasn’t what happened. Players instead got to continue to play as John Marston and return to his life as a rancher and family man. Anyone who knows Rockstar’s track record with protagonists could feel the impending dread growing as these missions dragged on. Eventually, that terrible feeling became a reality as Marston is shockingly betrayed by the FBI and U.S. Army, the very organizations he was forced to align with in order to hopefully put his past to rest and live happily with his family. In the end, Marston sends his family off and gives them time to escape by sacrificing himself. John engages in a awfully one-sided shootout with the Army in front of his barn, is riddled with holes, and perishes. Before he is killed, a sense of calm acceptance is seen on Marston’s face. That facial expression along with his tragic end emphasizes what was the real moral behind Red Dead Redemption‘s narrative all along: No matter how hard you try, the sins of your past will eventually come back to haunt you.


3) Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer

Everyone thought Scott was one of the good guys.

The means of which the identity of the Origami Killer is revealed in Heavy Rain was ingenious. Instead of making a dark emergence from a shadowy corner (which the game eventually does later), they begin with a decrepid old woman telling the tale of her two sons. The woman’s recollections eventually yield some more clues and the beginning of some clarity. Then we are given a flashback showing these two boys playing in a construction sight while their dead-beat father drinks away at their trailer. The boys’ games eventually take a turn for the worst, as John gets caught in a drainage pipe that is pulling him under the rising water from a rain storm. John’s brother tries to get his father to help, but he is too drunk and abusive to care. John’s brother is left to watch John drown right before his eyes. Before he passes, John calls his brother by his name, Scott. The revelation sends a ton of mixed emotions flying into the player’s mind. Confusion, betrayal, understanding, sympathy, and hatred are likely the strongest among them. We then see Scott burning evidence of his past victims and of his personal past. It all paints an empathetic image for the sick and tortured soul of Scott Shelby, giving depth and reason to the game’s villain. It is the sign of true artistry, something that Heavy Rain has proven is possible in video games.


2) The Apple of Eden Forces Desmond Miles to Stab Lucy Stillman

Stupid ancient gods forcing us to kill beautiful women.

Leave it to the Assassin’s Creed series to give you a cliffhanger that makes you go absolutely insane over. Following up the mind-boggling ending from last year’s Assassin’s Creed II that garnered the number one spot on my list for 2009, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood hits you hard with another cryptic and confusing finish. This time, however, Ubisoft gives you two more feelings to go along with that: Anger and the sensation of getting stabbed in the gut. Quite fitting given the context, as the ancient beings worshipped by early humans as gods in the form of what appears to be Juno force Desmond to perform a horrific act. After yet another obscure speech and using the power of the Apple of Eden, Juno freezes time and forcibly moves Desmond towards Assassin friend and love interest Lucy Stillman. As both Desmond and the player desperately struggle to stop the inevitable, the hidden blade of Mr. Miles sinks itself into Lucy’s midsection. Desmond then collapses into an unconscious state as Lucy falls to her side, bleeding to death as the scene fades out and the credits roll. If anyone thought it was going to be rough waiting for Assassin’s Creed III before, the ending of Brotherhood just made the wait excrutiating.

1) Joe Barbaro is Not "Part of Our Deal"

Leo betraying Vito and having Joe whacked proves how cold and heartless all mobsters can be.

The tale of Vito Scaletta in Mafia II is that of a down-on-his-luck Italian immigrant to America just doing what he can to survive and make a name for himself. Every time things seem to be looking up for Vito, something happens to completely smack him back down into the dirt. First it’s prison, then his house and worldly possessions are burned to the ground. So when Vito finally ends the family wars in Empire Bay with the help of psuedo-mentor Leo Galante and best friend Joe Barbaro, it seems like Vito is finally going to get the happy ending he deserves. Unfortunately, everything goes to hell for Vito one last time. Joe and Vito, under the guise of friendship and trust, are put into separate cars that they are told are going to the Cat House to celebrate. After the caravan drives for a while, Joe’s car makes a sudden right turn and speeds away from the rest of the group. A shocked Vito pleas with Leo where Joe is being taken, but is only met with the cold words, "Sorry kid. Joe wasn’t part of our deal." Vito’s visible anger surely showcases the same anger felt by players of the game everywhere. Joe is arguably one of the best, most likeable sidekick/buddy characters ever created in video games, and for this his implied whacking is a hard felt blow. But this twist is far from terrible, it is brilliant. It showcases the age old lesson that comes from living a life of organized crime. Everyone is ultimately out for themselves, no one is to be trusted, and this lifesyle will eventually destroy you and any connection you have to the ones you love. It may be one of the most infuriating twists of the year, but it is infuriating for all the right reasons. That’s why it is also the best plot twist of 2010.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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